The Trust Problem
There is a trust problem in our society and it affects every single one of us every day.
The data tells us that the trust problem is only getting worse.
Many years ago I had a startup business, an internet business and we had spent a good year, getting to the point where we were ready to launch. And I engaged a company, a telemarketing company to come in and to run the telemarketing campaign to run the business. So much was hinging on what the telemarketing company did and how well they performed.
We built all of the systems for them to go out to call the database that we provided to make the calls, to make the sales, it was a massive amount of effort that had gone in the background.
All they had to do was to have the people on the phone ringing up. We had the quotation, we had agreed, we had signed, we had even paid them for the services beforehand. That is what they required as a part of the deal.
At that point I happened to be travelling and I was in Chicago, still living in Perth I was in Chicago on the other side of the planet and I was eagerly awaiting the news from the first days telemarketing data. And so I rang the owner of the telemarketing company, desperate to get the first days data and I finally got a hold of him and I spoke to him and I asked “so tell me, hows the data going?” And he said “Well we haven’t started today”, and I was like, “What you haven’t started?”
And so it was put back, and then it was put back again and it took him weeks and weeks to get to the point where he started to do the campaign that we had already agreed on that I had signed on for, that I had already paid for.
He breached the trust that we put in him and it had a massive effect on us.
Ultimately even when he did get going he couldn’t deliver on what he had promised.
But that’s one form of trust being breached, lets look at another.
3 weeks ago a company called Equifax, one of the largest data providers in the US, so they basically provide information about the credit worthiness of companies and people in the United States. Well they had a data breach themselves and 143 million people’s data – private, private data like social security number, date of birth address you name it was leaked and available for anyone. This is like 50% of the US population completely breached.
This is on the back of 4 weeks ago, one week earlier, the Online Spambot dump with 711 million people.
Both of these examples – where my business the person didn’t deliver trust and the recent online hacks where millions of peoples data has been exposed. Both these are a failure of trust. But what is trust. Lets take a look at what trust really means.
What is Trust?
Trust is both an emotional and a logical act.
Emotionally when you expose your vulnerability to a person you trust that person with that opernness that they won’t expose that vulnerability.
Logically it is where you have assessed the probability of gain and loss and you have determined that the person will behave in a predicatable manner.
There are 4 dimensions to trust.
The first is predictability. So that is being able to predict what the people around you are going to do and how they are going to act. And this creates a safe environment both now and into the future.
The second is value exchange so that is understanding that I will give something and get something in return. So I will give you 2 sheep for your 1 cow. Trust means making an exchange with someone when you don’t have full knowledge about them or their intent.
Third is delayed reciprocity. Trust means giving something now with the understanding that it may be paid in some unspecified way at some unspecified time.
Fourth is exposed vulnerabilities. Trust is exposing your vulnerabilities to other people, but expecting that people will not take advantage of those vulnerabilities.
So these are the four dimensions of trust. The problem is that people within institutions build systems which they expect people to rely on but they don’t meet these four dimensions of trust.
Then they expect people (often customers) to trust these systems and then wonder why people have a lower level of trust with their institution. Be it a Company or a Government or a NGO or whoever it is.
They remove people from the system and expect people to just trust the system. But we can’t trust the system, we can only trust people.
Let’s look at Facebook. Arguably one of the largest and most influential companies ever to exist. Facebook have arguably influenced elections and overthrown governments and they rely completely on their algorithm, their system.
Lets take a look at the Facebook company motto.
Move fast and break things.
They want you to trust their system implicitly and yet they have a motto which is move fast and break things. That doesn’t make sense! Facebook even sent me a survey asking how much do I trust Facebook. I don’t trust Facebook at all!
I don’t think that Facebook or any of their system exhibits any of the four dimensions of trust.
Have you ever read the terms and conditions of a software company? This is the dirty little secret of the software industry. You subscribe to a service, no one ever reads the contract that they are agreeing to and all of the contract is completely one way toward the software company. They offer no care and no responsibility and if they happen to lose all of your data or anything else happens that has a massive impact on you they are just putting their hands up in the air and saying well… our terms and conditions…
It’s the dirty little secret.
And they wonder why we don’t trust them.
They trust their system completely and yet offer no accountability when their system fails and these systems fail all the time.
Unless we can solve the key problem within the foundations of the internet which is anonymity, people being able to be on the internet and not knowing who they are, we are not going to be able to build a trusted internet.
Anonymity is at the heart of so many problems because we don’t know who we are dealing with, we don’t know who is doing what. If we knew every single person who was on the internet, and we could identify who they are, trust on the internet would increase massively.
But that’s perhaps a matter for another time.
Trust in Crisis
Lets take a look at some data around trust and what it means in the context of business and government.
In the 2017 Edelman trust survey 53% of people believe the system is failing them and a further 32% are uncertain.
In terms of peoples trust in business the global average is 52%.
For CEO credibility the global average is 52% but in Australia it is 26% down one third in the past 12 months. That means that 74% of Australian people don’t believe that Australian CEOs are credible.
If CEOs are not credible then who is?
Across 6 key questions employees ranked the highest to deliver credible and honest information.
Finally when hearing information about a company the most credible spokesperson would be a person like yourself which is almost double a CEO or board of directors.
If we take this to the other extreme, in Western Australia we a had a premier for about 8 years by the name of Sir Charles Court. And a famous local story about Sir Charles Court is that he always put his telephone number in the telephone directory so anybody could ring him up at his house at any time. Now obviously this was in the 70’s and it was well before mobile phones but if you had a problem you could ring the Premiers house at any time.
Now that wouldn’t happen today but how much trust did that build? How much did his constituents feel like they were represented by him and if they had a problem they could just talk to him? There is a saying from the US “No taxation without representation” well I put it to you certainly the people in Charlie Courts area felt represented and they could talk to him about any problem that they had.
So how does all of this impact you and how does all of this data and trust impact you? How does this impact small business? Well there is an idea getting around that you can buy a laptop and you can sit on the beach and run an internet business and live the life of your dreams.
Well I put it to you that that’s all garbage.
People want to deal with people. People don’t want to deal with a system that you or anybody else built. People want to have an interaction with another person that they trust. Don’t think that building a system is the answer because ultimately if the whole world is going that way and people need to have a trusted relationship how do you think this is going to work out?
What is the opportunity that comes from this data and the way that society is heading?
The problem is that people in institutions build systems that they want to interact with customers and they try to remove people from the picture, therefore there is no opportunity to have these four dimensions of trust occur, and they wonder why people don’t trust the institution.
Let me explain.
Once upon a time people had to engage with each other to survive and I needed a cow and you needed two sheep and we would exchange. So the four dimensions of trust would easily build and I knew that if we were to exchange that you weren’t going to kill me and you weren’t going to steal my produce that we could build trust over time. And this worked really, really well in that environment.
And then what happened is people decided to put systems in between people and customers.
People thought we can be more efficient, we can be more effective, we can serve more customers we can make more profit, whatever it is, it could be a Government an NGO or a Business people in these organisations began to put systems in between the customers and their people. So there was no possibility to build out these four dimensions of trust. And at every opportunity the system was proving that I don’t trust this organisation. My first point of contact is a website or a call centre at a third world country where the people don’t speak the language and don’t have any decision making power.
When people can only interact with your system they can’t build trust with you. And business is just about people doing stuff. People coming together to interact. If all I can interact with is your system its not going to work.
So what you have got to do, the opportunity is to not have customers interact with your system but to have customers build trusted relationships with people using these four dimensions of trust.
Rather than the system being in between your people, your organisation and the customer, it’s supporting them. Don’t have every interaction with customers be all about the system. Talk to real, genuine, authentic people. Train them on the four dimensions of trust and get them to build that trust out.
This is what is hardwired into our DNA. Dealing with another person, trusting another person. We can’t change our DNA. If this is what you are trying to achieve how can you possibly be thinking that it’s a surprise when trust is lowered.
If you are going to build a system to build a more efficient and effective company make sure that is supporting your people and it is not standing in the way of a trusted relationship between people. Your customers and your people.
In this world of clickbait and fake news and marketing excess people want to deal with authentic and genuine people they can trust. So the opportunity is to build a system that supports your people to have authentic, meaningful, trusted relationships with customers and don’t build a system to interact with your customers.
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ABOUT BRAD GILES
I am passionate about growing mid market businesses.
I am a certified Gazelles coach and facilitate strategic planning for leadership teams for some amazing companies across Australia. My background is as an entrepreneur and I believe that entrepreneurship is one of the most noble and yet scariest things you can do.
That’s why I help people, I help CEOs:
1. Build a plan to scale up their business
2. Execute & and be held accountable to their strategic plan
3. Keep focused so that they & their team are working on the critical few things, versus the important many
4. Put in place & use proven systems to build an awesome corporate culture that turns their company into a magnet for great people